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That No does not exist. There's only Yes - L.A. Film Festival

By Darrell A. Holmes

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Sally Potter's 'Yes' is an utter mess. Following the marital crisis of an Irish woman raised in America and living in Britain, the film ponders its way through a series of exploitative scenes wrought with elementary poetry. The dialogue is spoken in verse(iambic-pentameter to be precise), which means that it takes a character twice as long to tell us that he used to be a surgeon and is now a cook or that she is a scientist studying fetal geneses.

'Yes' deals with so many hefty topics: East/West relations, materialistic desires, abortion, open marriages, death, racism and more, and yet none seem sufficiently touched upon. Sally Potter ('The Man who Cried,' 'Orlando') has created a series of scenes in which she can platform various concerns of her own.  The characters in Potter's film, the main two of which are aptly named She and He, exist only to propagate her thoughts, they are merely vessels for her warbled Moliere. Joan Allen stars as She, and delivers an inspired performance that achieves more than the insipid dialogue deserves. Her power to captivate cannot be denied; see the scene in which Allen leans over a dying Aunt's bed, expunging tears, snot and sentiment for several minutes as the camera unflinchingly observes from below.

He (Simon Abkarian) is a Lebanese cook who strikes up an affair with the unhappily married She. Their affair is torrid and passionate. They discuss such post-coital topics as numbers (He prefers the number one, She wonders if zero is not a better choice), and their common emergence from holy war torn countries (She was born in Belfast, He in Beirut). The husband (Sam Neill) sits, stands, air guitars and drinks his way around an empty, bland, pale house listening to the Blues. We don't learn much about him otherwise.

In Potter's world we are all dust, destined to be shuffled from one exchange to the next as we sully it all. She claims that she began writing the film just after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The confusion, loneliness, depression, anger and uncertainty that most of us felt after that day is all here, only it's been boiled down to what amounts to teen angst. It feels like we've peeped into Potter's ninth grade journal and found an epic poem, a misguided poem that suggests that the only safe place on earth is Cuba.

It some ways 'Yes' is a valiant attempt; one just wishes it were a more successful one.

ENGLAND. 95 MIN.

DIRECTOR / WRITER Sally Potter

PRODUCERS Christopher Sheppard, Andrew Fierberg CAST Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian, Sam Neill, Shirley Henderson

  'Yes' played the L.A. Film Festival on June 22, 2005.

Published on Dec 31, 1969

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